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By Liam Cochrane
I joined PBA in 4th grade, it is a Choir School spanning grades 4-8. At my school we had a full academic load, as well as over 2 hours of music each day, Music theory and vocal control classes 3 times a week, and a 2.5 hour after school rehearsal every monday. Additionally we would have extra rehearsals when we had an exceptionally difficult amount of music to learn and were contracted to perform a concert with short notice. My first year I joined the choir we won 3 Grammies with The San Francisco Symphony, performed for Arnold Schwarzenegger among many other concerts. I first left the country the summer after 4th grade. I was 9 years old and had just finished my first year of choir school. Travelling has expanded my world perspective.Touring in South Africa taught me discipline and organization. I learned the importance of listening to instructions and being flexible. On tour, things often do not go as planned. Many times the bus has broken down, causing us to skip a meal, or cut a sightseeing opportunity. Traffic has caused us to be late to a concert forcing us to rush the soundcheck or warm up, or in some cases skip them entirely and walk straight on stage. Tour is high paced which makes it very easy to lose belongings. In South Africa we would stay in one place for maybe 1-2 nights, sing a few concerts, and then move on. Much of South Africa’s environment looks remarkably similar to california. There is a tabletop mountain, similar to the one in California, only way larger. Leaving the country for the first time illustrated the similarities and differences between California and South Africa. In South Africa people carve intricate masks, and make beautiful drums on the side of the road to sell. There is a sense of entrepreneurship and determination, that i feel is absent from the U.S. From what i witnessed, there was much less regulation there. From performing and touring in South Africa, I witnessed an alternative to our consumerist culture, which is built on the foundation that you need more in order to be happy. During my travels in South Africa I saw a whole different mentality and approach to life. One where people are happy with less, and are much more appreciative of what they have. Coming back from South Africa, I realized just how much we take for granted. Even someone living below the poverty line in the U.S. has much more resources available to them then the poor in South Africa. For example when i visited the slums, i saw a vast community of people who were growing up through the cracks in the concrete. Although the deck was stacked against them they were making their life function. The homes that they made for themselves would never be allowed in the U.S. But in South Africa people do what they have to do to survive.
My experience in South Africa felt almost magical. One spot we stayed at was on the grounds of a safari. Walking from our cabins to the dining hall we would see monkeys scuttling up and down trees and sprinting across the ground. On a bridge there was a sign saying Danger this area is home to Hippopotami. During our tour of the safari we saw all types of exotic animals. There were elephants lions Giraffes and zebras. Being able to see the wildlife in its natural habitat is something I will never forget. These experiences stretched my world perspective, and enabled me to view what seemed like an alternate reality. Since South Africa, I have also sang in China, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, as well as Spain and Brazil. These experiences have taught me as much about myself as they have about the places i have been. I think travelling is incredibly important for self growth, because it takes us out of our comfort zone, and provides us with new experiences that are significantly different from our day to day lives. Through travelling I learned to function at top notch under enormous pressure, sometimes with only a few hours of sleep and without meals. I learned to be very aware of my surroundings, to think on my feet, and to have self discipline. I learned to multitask, and to manage my time. I also learned to cooperate with other members of my choir, so that we could be as efficient as possible. Through these experiences I grew closer to myself, and became more in touch with my feelings. I recommend travelling to people of all ages, you will learn a lot about yourself and gain many important skills.